Health IT

Customized mobile health platform acts like a “Swiss Army knife of apps” for hospital communication

There is a sense of urgency in responding to calls and text alerts on mobile devices that make them both especially useful for contacting others faster and attention diverting. It has spurred mobile health startups and growth-stage companies from Seratis and Cureatr to Voalte to help medical staff ditch their pagers to make communication faster […]

There is a sense of urgency in responding to calls and text alerts on mobile devices that make them both especially useful for contacting others faster and attention diverting. It has spurred mobile health startups and growth-stage companies from Seratis and Cureatr to Voalte to help medical staff ditch their pagers to make communication faster and more efficient. Mobile health company Practice Unite has developed several different applications within one app platform.

The idea is to not only speed up response times to consult requests but also to automatically transmit them to electronic medical records. The New Jersey-based company also wants to make it easier to share patient images and data between medical staff using a HIPAA-compliant platform.

The business was previously named Navio Health but became so closely identified with its app platform that it decided to change the company name.

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The co-founders include Adam Turinas, who comes from a digital communications background, and Dr. Stuart Hochron, who is also a professor at Rutgers University Medical School. Ed Guy III is chief technology officer. In a phone interview, Turinas and Hochron likened the platform to a Swiss Army knife but for medical apps.

Practice Unite works with hospitals who buy the application and can customize it to their needs. When the initial platform was launched in 2013, it contained nine apps. A patient list allows users to share a condensed version of patient notes with physicians, nurses and other clinicians. Users can identify who the on-call doctors are. A procedure tool lets users order and schedule procedures for patients and have the results delivered to the prescribing physician’s smartphone.  A directory and accompanying search tool lets users contact medical staff faster and shows doctors across different departments.

It’s also rolling out patient-centered apps for the platform as well. A secure messaging app lets patients send secure messages to their care teams. Another app is set up to receive customized care instructions to help patients manage their recovery. A patient portal is in development.

With six health systems and standalone medical centers in New Jersey and New York as customers, there are about 5,000 physicians using the system. Hochron said feedback has been positive. An ER director said patients at one hospital are discharged 20 percent faster with the mobile health platform.

Turinas remarked that effective training is critical to drive adoption. Putting it in the hands of residents helped too. “Secure messaging systems can crash and burn after six  months because they fail to gain critical mass.”

One of the interesting things about Practice Unite’s platform is that it considers different levels of communication intensity. A request for a consult may be more urgent than, say, a notice about a staff meeting. But the idea is that by receiving the notice on a mobile phone it’s likely to be taken more seriously with a faster response time.

In addition to outpatient care, the makers view the platform as an effective way to communicate with caregivers in post acute care facilities such as nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities. One goal is to reduce unnecessary re-admissions by catching potential problems early or avoiding the need to go to the hospital altogether. For example, caregivers could transmit an image of a rash to a physician to ascertain whether it is serious enough for an in-person trip to the hospital.

The convenience and immediacy of these communication tools is what can make them potentially effective but can also risk undermining concentration at a critical time in a workplace that is filled with critical moments. It will be interesting to see how easily hospital staff can balance these multitasking tools with their non-smartphone duties.